The Other Side of Animation 235: Firedrake the Silver Dragon Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Listen, it is pretty much impossible to have every studio make films on the level of the top-tier giants like Chizu, Science Saru, Disney, Pixar, and you get the idea. Not every studio all around the world is going to throw down the money for the tools, the talent needed, or will have the smoothest production cycle to make films on par with what’s coming out these days. That’s okay for the most part. Not everything needs to look like the most polished animated film from the bigger studios. With that said, with so many smaller studios making animated features, you have to do something that stands out. If your film makes viewers remind them of much better films, then you are in trouble as a studio. It’s always going to be disappointing when you see a small film from a studio that wants to make an impression, and then come off as something that was made because someone wanted to make an animated film due to how profitable they can be. This is where most people will fall with Dragon Rider aka Firedrake the Silver Dragon


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Directed by Tomer Eshed, the director behind the incredible CGI short Our Incredible Nature: The Common Chameleon, Firedrake was written by Cornelia Funke, John R. Smith, and was just released on Netflix. The story follows a silver dragon named Firedrake. He can’t breathe fire, the other dragons treat him like some odd individual, and his only friend is a creature called a Brownie. He talks to the elder dragon of his kind to learn about the Rim of the World, a location where dragons live freely and away from humans. One day, they find out that the humans are creeping ever so close to where the dragons live. It’s up to Silverdrake and his friend to find the famed dragon rider to help find this location and avoid the evil grasp of Nettlebrand, a mechanical dragon that wants to eat the dragons of the world. 



It’s very difficult to come up with a compelling story that feels refreshing and constantly keeps your attention. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do a stellar job at keeping the audience’s attention. If you have seen any kind of fantasy film with dragons as the focus, then you will have seen this film. It has a few good lines and morals, but when you are struggling to remember the characters that said it, or when they said it, that’s a problem! The fantastical elements mixed with modern-day human civilization feel undercooked. The humans don’t seem to care that giants, sea serpents, and other mystical beings exist in this world, when the opening of the film explains that humans and dragons used to live together. Okay, well, why should I care? Viewers will find it hard to feel engrossed in this bog-standard world with a mediocre story attached. There are themes of moving on past a tragic event in your life, and how everyone is flawed, but can do good things. To give the film credit, those are decent points. 



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Getting to those points is what makes the film such a struggle to watch. It feels too childish for adults, and not engaging enough for kids. It makes references to much better films you would rather be watching, and those references can come off as both cute and very desperate. The two references by the way are for Ice Age and the obvious comparison point for this film, How to Train Your Dragon. To be fair, the film is based on a book,and could have been simply a bad adaptation of the story. To be even fairer, most viewers won’t care if it’s based on something, because the film needs to be good on its own, and no one wants to see fantastical creatures reference stuff like the internet, Skype, and you get the idea. It feels insulting that this film thought it needed to take place in the modern-day when if you change the time period, it wouldn’t matter. Sure, you would have to change a few scene executions around, but you wouldn’t have to change the overarching story. 




The characters fall flat. Firedrake is your typical dorky outcast who wants to be a powerful dragon but doesn’t know how. Sorrel is the snarky one who doesn’t trust humans. Ben had the potential to be an interesting human character, but viewers will have seen much better orphaned characters with shows like Kid Cosmic that came out this year. The villains and side characters that help flesh out the world don’t offer too much, which is shocking since you would think a giant mechanical dragon voiced by Patrick Stewart would be more entertaining than it actually is. The film’s story is a real crushing case of going in one ear and out the other. 




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The animation for Firedrake and the Silver Dragon looks like those videos you see on YouTube, where they take a game that has colorful cartoony graphics and run it through the hyper-realistic textures and graphics of the Unreal Engine, but then don’t translate the cartoonish character designs. The animation looks clunky and stiff. They also do a lot of repeated character models and looping animations. The overall vibe that I personally took away from this film is an animation school graduate project. Patrick Stewart’s character Nettlebrand has the best character animation on him, but it makes you wonder whether making him metal had a reason for it. A different team would focus more on his robotic elements than it looking like an alternate costume/skin from a video game. The human designs are unappealing to look at, and another sign of either the talent not being there or the talent not having time to go over a few sequences to make them look less horrifying at points. The film also feels like the CGI characters are at times flying against a flat background.


Since it wants to be like How to Train Your Dragon, it does have a few moments of action and flying, but they feel unimaginative. How to Train Your Dragon felt like you were there while the flying was happening. The overall film lacks that cinematic edge, and whether it was due to time or resources not being handled well, the action and flying sequences don’t have that spark and magic to them. Yes, for the most part, you can judge this film on its own merits without having to compare it to films that were obviously made by large teams of talented animators and directors. With that said, when a film like this is making references and wants to be like that more popular film, well, it’s open season on the comparisons.

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The voice cast does have a few big names including Thomas Brodie Sangster, Felicity Jones, Patrick Stewart, Freddie Highmore, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhasker, Nonso Anozie, Alex Norton, and Jimmy Hibbert to name a few. The performances range from annoying to some of them trying their hardest to work with the mediocre material, and some of them are completely forgettable. Patrick Stewart seems to be putting in most of the legwork to leave an impression, and even the weakest Patrick Stewart performance is better than most actors in this film. 






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Netflix is an odd beast when it comes to animation. They have all of this money and they have put out a lot of incredible work, but then you see them buy films from overseas that would look at home on the film rack in a grocery store next to direct-to-video animated fare. If I wanted to see a company bring over direct-to-video films, I would have gone to Lionsgate. Firedrake the Silver Dragon is not the worst of the year, but it’s definitely a bottom-tier animated film for 2021. Maybe if this film came out in a weaker year I would have liked it more, but since the films are so strong this year, it’s going to end up near the bottom. There are so many better animated films with dragons in them right now that you would have to use a map to find a reason to watch this one. If you do want to watch it, then go ahead. Watch the film at your own leisure and see how you come out of the experience. Well, next time, we will be looking at yet another CGI animated film coming to Netflix, but you will have to wait and see what it is.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 230: Vivo Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


Heads up: I was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

Sony Pictures Animation has had quite a year, hasn’t it? The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Wish Dragon, the upcoming release of Hotel Transylvania 4, and with a lineup of other amazing and promising projects coming down the pipeline, Sony Pictures Animation is experiencing a renaissance of artistic creativity that has matched the likes of Disney and Pixar at their peaks. It’s nice to see a studio like Sony find their route through the sea of animation and result in some of the best or more interesting animated films for the past few years. They are doing what every studio should do by diversifying the experiences that you can’t get from other studios. Don’t try to make a Disney-like experience. If I want a Disney experience, I’ll go to Disney. Luckily, Sony Pictures Animation is so distinct that you won’t have a problem seeing them craft something other studios have turned down for some reason. For example, let’s talk about their newest film, Vivo. 


Directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords, this new animated feature was born from a passion project by Peter Barsocchini and a failed pitch from Lin-Manuel Miranda with songs written by Miranda and his collaborator Alex Lacamoire. It was originally pitched at DreamWorks Animation after Miranda’s play In the Heights was a hit, but due to DreamWorks getting restructured in 2015, the pitch fell through. Later greenlit through Sony Pictures and set for release back in November 2020, Vivo was delayed due to the pandemic. Afterward, Sony made a deal where their animated films and live-action films will make it to the streaming service Netflix. So, where does this land on Sony’s recent streak of animated films? Well, you will have to read to find out. 

The story revolves around a young Kunkajou named Vivo, voiced by LIn-Manuel Miranda. Vivo lives with his owner Andres, voiced by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. They live in Cuba together and play music. Their life is perfect until Andres gets a letter from a previous love interest named Marta Sandoval, voiced by Gloria Estefan. Marta requests that he come to Miami for her last performance so they can see each other again after so many years have passed. Unfortunately, Andres passes away before he can make the trip. At the wake, Vivo meets Andres’ grand-niece named Gabi, voiced by Ynairaly Simo. Vivo decides to go to Florida with Gabi and her mother Rosa, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Vivo then attempts to communicate with Gabi to take Andres’ last song to Marta’s final performance in Miami, and it is up to Gabi and Vivo to get there in time!

Let’s talk about the animation first. Something that Sony Pictures has tied their name to in terms of their visual style and art direction is experimental and groundbreaking innovations and snappy movements. So, What does Vivo bring? Well, due to it being a musical, the animation is still snappy, but it matches more with the music, so the movements are slower-paced to sync with the tunes. It still has the distinct Sony Pictures Animation elements with the human designs, but it doesn’t go as far as Spider-Verse or The Mitchells. With that said, it didn’t need to go that route since it still has its distinct visual look that I can’t match to other animated films that are out there. As per usual though with a Sony animated film, it does have some very vibrant and unique animated sequences that give a unique 2D CGI look using bright neon colors that make certain moments pop. It’s such a cool-looking movie, and I’m glad many of Sony’s animated features tend to have their looks. I adore these 2D/CGI moments in the film that don’t feel like they are trying to copy what another one of their films did. In terms of the voice cast, I adore it all. Lin Manuel Miranda is still growing on me as a lead actor and just an actor in general, but he brings a charm to the character with a certain innocence, and his comedic timing is getting better. I also enjoyed his singing. I know he doesn’t have the best voice, but for how the song was written and set, he passes with flying colors. Ynairaly Simo is also good as Gabi and brings that energetic “I dance to the beat of my own drum” spirit that encapsulates the character. The rest of the cast does a fine job as their respective characters as well, including Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Leslie David Baker, Nicole Byer, Katie Lowes, and Zoe Saldana, all making for a memorable cast that has their own identifiable moments. The music by LMM and his co-writer is really good! It’s nice to see a strong musical from someone other than Disney for once. I know other studios have tried, but they tend to try and feel like a Disney musical rather than be their own type of musical. I found myself humming a lot of the tunes as I worked on this review and when I was at my job. 

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Story-wise, it’s a film that’s all about how music connects us, family, love, and the legacy you leave in this world. While the story itself has familiar beats and rhythm to the overarching story, the execution still made the journey through the film worth it. Music is such a universal language, and Vivo showed that no matter who or what you are, music connects us. At first, I was curious about why Vivo couldn’t speak the same language as the humans, but I think that helps reinforce the whole “music is universal” message that the film is going for. The studio sort of goes the route of something like Courage the Cowardly Dog where around everyone, he talks like an animal, but when addressing the audience or interacting for the sake of the audience, he speaks English. It’s an incredibly sweet story overall, and it reminds me of a US studio doing their take on one of my favorite films, Chico & Rita. Not only does it take place partly in Cuba, but the same kind of music is played throughout both films. It has, again, a familiar story beat about family, but I think everyone has gone through this situation where they lost a loved one and didn’t get to say something to them. They didn’t get to leave what they wanted to say to them. It’s an overall touching story, and even some bits with the side characters are fun. 

Something that I wish more US animated films would do is step out of their comfort zones when it comes to certain characters and stories. I say this because the film itself doesn’t offer that many surprises, and that’s a shame because I like the overall experience and story, but it’s full of story elements you have seen before. It makes for an experience that’s well-told, but something we have seen before. You know what’s going to happen, and while it’s all executed well, there are elements to the story that could have been improved. The side characters are a good example of this. To me, they fell flat. The main film should be about Vivo and Gabi, but you still want to see the rest of the cast stack up to them or be memorable in some way, shape, or form. Rosa is just a typical caring mom, the Sand Dollars are typical tyrannical girl scouts, and Lutador is a road stop villain. He isn’t there to be important to the story, but more of a challenge that they have to face when trying to get to their destination. Rooker plays him with a devilish charm, but he’s like Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone. No real mention or build-up until you see him. I also wanted there to be more time between Vivo and Andres. It gets to the tragedy as soon as possible, and that was jarring. Even when the trailer accidentally spoiled what happened to Andres, I wasn’t too bothered by it since I felt like something was going to happen, but I wish we either had spent more time with Andres, or Andrew lived and got to see Marta in person before passing. I know you would have to retool the film if the story kept him alive, but I feel like we didn’t get much time with him. It’s a shame since I love Juan de Maros Gonzalez as Andres and would have liked to have seen him in more scenes interacting with the people in the city and for there to be more scenes of just him and Vivo. 

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I think the biggest downfall of this film coming out is the fact it came out after something as big and acclaimed as The Mitchells vs The Machines, and it’s not fair to Vivo to be held up to that high standard. Vivo stands on its own two feet in terms of its own experience. I think that’s something quite nice about the animated films from Sony this year. They all feel distinct and different from one another. Sure, I might have a ranking of which ones I Like more, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have still found so much joy in how many unique offerings this one studio has given us this year. If you have yet to watch Vivo, please do. Netflix has done a terrible job with marketing this film, and it would be a real shame for this to get buried because of Netflix’s asinine algorithm and being overshadowed by other films and shows released that day. I love that we got an original film from the amazing Kirk DeMicco, Lin Manuel Miranda, and the other members of this passionate team. Seriously, do not let this film get buried. Now then, I would take a small break from reviewing, but the work is never done! Next time, I will be writing a review about another CGI animated film that Netflix is burying on the site with Monster Hunter: Legend of the Guild. I’m a little worried about how this film will turn out, but it can’t be any worse than that awful live-action adaptation from 2020 right? See ya next time! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

The Other Side of Animation 224: Luca Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)


You know how I have mentioned in a few reviews this year that studios like Disney can and have become very complacent with how they want to deliver their animated features? How the teams at these studios want to push the boundaries on the stories they tell, but know that they have to begrudgingly stay within the boundaries since they are one of the biggest media corporations aimed at families? It must be frustrating because you can tell that they want to do more, but can’t. You can see that in their films like The Black Cauldron from 1985, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and to some degree, Raya and the Last Dragon, they feel like it could have gone further. The same goes for Disney’s other major studio, Pixar. While Pixar tends to get away with a little more than their owners with how ambitious or adult-themed their films can be, they sure did have an identity crisis after 2010. From 2011 to 2020, while still releasing great movies like Inside OutFinding DoryCocoToy Story 4, and Soul, their lineup was less than stellar. It reminds me of how Disney was back in the 60s-80s after Walt Disney died, or back in the 2000s after their streak of hits from the 90s. There are going to be growing pains, but in some ways, that is healthy. Could you imagine being forced to reinvent the wheel over and over again or else you are considered a failure? Or how the studio will function after a major founder leaves or is fired because they were a scummy individual behind the scenes? Anyway, I talk about all of this because of Pixar’s newest film, Luca

Directed by Enrico Casarosa, written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature that was unfortunately sent directly to Disney+, and while you can argue about the whole theatrical scene right now due to the pandemic that we are still in, and they made sure everyone could watch the movie, it’s still a bummer they didn’t give the film a theatrical release. Still, how does this new Pixar film stack up among their 26 years of animated features? Well, let’s dive into the crystal blue waters and check out this fishy movie. 

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Our story revolves around Luca, voiced by Jacob Trembly, a humanoid fish being that has been told his entire life that humans are dangerous individuals and has mostly lived his life as a shepherd of fish. One day, while letting the fish graze among the kelp, he finds items from humans that have fallen into the water. As he goes to collect these items, Luca encounters another fish person named Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Alberto lives on the surface world, and you find out that if sea monsters walk on land, they turn into humans. Luca gets tantalized by the land as he hangs with Alberto. That is until Luca’s parents scold Luca for going onto land and plan to send him off to the deeper part of the ocean. Luca rebels and decides to go to the human town of PortoRosso with Alberto. There, the two meet a young girl name Giulia Marcavaldo, voiced by Emma Berman, her father Massimo Marcavaldo, voiced by Marco Barricelli, a bully named Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo, and learn about the human way of life. Will Luca ever go back to the ocean, or will he fall in love with the human world? 

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So, it’s hard to talk about this film because of the discussions being had around the studio itself. People have seemed to put Pixar on this unhealthy pedestal of if they aren’t reinventing the wheel, changing your life in the most impactful way possible, or their films don’t make you cry, then they are lesser. This discussion has popped up again due to how small the scale in story and stakes in Luca are. It’s a more casual slice-of-life/coming-of-age story than something as complex as Soul or Inside Out. Apparently, that’s a bad thing, even though animation fans have wanted to see the big studios take on smaller stories like what you would see in foreign animated films. Well, they finally do it, and while I have some complaints about how it’s handled, I enjoyed my time with Luca‘s story and themes. It was nice to see a big-budget film studio tackle a story that’s mostly about two young characters enjoying and experiencing life. It’s not about saving the world, or the risk of the fish people dying off. It’s two boys who experience the human world. Sometimes, it’s good to have a story scale back its experience. There are still themes of acceptance, discrimination, and so on, but the main deal about this story is the friendship between our two leads. The overall film is built around this, and personally, there is still a lot under the surface with the friendship and those themes of acceptance and discrimination. While they have said there is no romance between Luca and Alberto, you can pick up themes from the LGBTQ+ from how the humans treat the fish monsters and, well, the fish people themselves. Yes, the film is about a close friendship, but there may be some things that were put into the film that comes with the territory. 

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Animation-wise, Pixar shows why they are on top of their game. I know some people have criticized the art style, but when you ask for Pixar to change things up, well, this is what you get when you ask them to do such a thing. I found it charming, and it has its little animation details that it can call its own. I saw it used more cartoony blurring movements during some moments, and the mouth movements are pulling more from some modern cartoons. I adored the swimming animation when Luca is a fish monster, and I could go on about how they accurately catch the nervous mannerisms of a fish when Luca is hesitant to go to the surface. It reminds me of a bunch of times being in shallow water and watching fish come up to me to either check me out or nip at my skin. The designs are quite appealing, and the transition between fish and human forms is so fun to watch. The human designs are also pretty fantastic with a look that I can’t pinpoint with any other Pixar film. It shows how far we have come from 1995 to now with CGI animating humans. The visuals are quite lovely as, whether it’s accurate or not, how they portrayed a small coastal town in Italy, and the dream sequences are just a delight for the eyes. Casting-wise, I very much enjoyed who they hired. Sure, it’s odd that they didn’t stack the cast with all Italian actors due to the setting and such, but they all do a pretty good job at capturing their character’s personalities and mannerisms. I mean, when you have a cast that has Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Marina Massironi, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen, then you know that the cast will be pretty good. The soundtrack though, oh my goodness, the soundtrack is ear-pleasing to the nth degree! It’s one of the best soundtracks of a Pixar film ever with a mix of music composed by Dan Romer, who also composed the music for Beasts of the Southern WildBeasts of No Nation, and Wendy, but the soundtrack is also filled with plenty of Italian pop that blends in with the film to make for a distinct experience. 

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My one major complaint about Luca is that it could have taken a bit more from its obvious Ghibli inspirations by being a longer movie. It’s paced well for 90 minutes, but a lot of the charm of Ghibli films is that Miyazaki and the other directors let the characters lay around and just exist. Sure, it led to a lot of animation flexing from the hard-working animators, but it let the characters simply live their lives in their movies. Luca sort of does this, but doesn’t fully commit to it. It still had to keep the story moving and had to have a third-act conflict that ended in a happy ending. Heck, it even has a third-act conflict that, while built-up better than a lot of Ghibli films, it’s pretty predictable, since it’s about dealing with hateful individuals and discrimination. Granted, with how current events are right now, it’s sadly going to be timely. 

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Luca might be smaller in scale, but it’s a delightful film with a lot of charm. Could it have been even more like a Ghibli film? Sure, but at the end of the day, I still want a Pixar film to BE a Pixar film. A studio is always at their best when they are making films that have their own distinct identity and personality. I highly recommend watching Luca on Disney+ and still wish it got some kind of major theatrical release because this film would look gorgeous on the big screen. Now then, before I get to some other films, I must attend to a screener of a new Netflix original film. You probably know what it is, but if you don’t, well, you will have to wait and see. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!


Rating: Essential 

The Other Side of Animation 221: Wish Dragon Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

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What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

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Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

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Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating: Go See It! 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 3

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1 or part 2, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

18 Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves 

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With all of the controversy surrounding this one, I am glad that it was a solid little gem of a fantasy/action/comedy film. Unlike a lot of these fantasy comedies that came out after the wake of Shrek, Red Shoes has a more engaging hook and does have a few good messages and morals in the overarching story. It also helps that the voice cast is pretty solid, and Jim Rash and Patrick Warburton steal every scene they are in. If it had better jokes and a more compelling villain, I think this could have easily been higher on the list, but for now, it’s a solid little oddity from South Korea, and if you can find it for cheap, I recommend checking it out. 



17 Superman: Man of Tomorrow 

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It feels like it’s been forever since I have truly loved a DC-animated feature, and Superman: Man of Tomorrow is one of those films that I love. It takes a little more time to flesh out Superman in his early days than other films about the hero. The dialogue feels a lot more nuanced and grounded, which makes me fall in love with a character I have been drifting in and out of loving for years now. The new animation style is visually distinct from the previous films. With its use of thick outlines, it’s different enough from the previous films to make it feel fresh. We also finally get a Superman film with a different villain with a three-dimensional take on Parasite. It might have some of the typical DC DTV film clunkiness, and I’m kind of tired of them doing a connected universe thing again, but Man of Tomorrow is a promising start to a hopefully better lineup of films. 





16 No. 7 Cherry Lane 

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Now, this is quite a film experience. An adult animated film that’s not a comedy or raunchy. It’s more of an adult romance that takes place in the 1960s. I know some people have criticized it for its slow pace, but it does make up for it by having some great intimate and personal moments between the lead characters. It also captures a period that I was not fully aware of in China. It might have some flawed CGI animation that isn’t as polished as other features seen on this list, but if you can find a way to watch this film, I highly recommend checking it out. 





15 Animal Crackers 

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It seems like we should have gotten this film years ago, and it was nice to finally get it. While I understand how some people may not gel with this film due to a fairly weak villain, and it could have gone further with being a full-on musical, I had fun with it. It was a very creative film with plenty of laughs and creativity that led to a rather amusing experience. It might not have the most polished animation, but it has such a cartoony look that it will age better than those films and shorts that use hyper-realistic visuals. If you need a low-key family comedy, I recommend this film!







14 Trolls: World Tour 

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Who knew DreamWorks would have a much better track record for sequels than Disney! While it has some story beats that don’t quite match up with the overall commentary that the film is tackling, and some characters regress from the first film, I’m still in awe that they pulled so much out of a sequel to the 2016 original. On top of building upon its vibrant and creative world with more troll races, it takes multiple music genres and creates a rather ambitious commentary about diversity, LGBT elements, cultural appropriation, and commentary about the music industry as well. I just wish the overall film was stronger, but check it out if you haven’t already.






13 SHe

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This is probably one of the two most obscure films I have talked about on this list, and probably the one that’s the most abstract to dive into. Here is what it is, this is a stop-motion film about how men and women are treated in society and the workplace. The catch is that it’s all done in stop-motion and instead of using humans, everyone is represented by shoes! I’m not joking, and this film exists. I saw it back in 2019, and while it may have been the wrong film to play late at night at Animation is Film, it’s a film you never quite forget about. It’s a visual experience full of some of the most distinct stop-motion and darkest visuals you will ever see. I think it’s a touch long, and unless you are paying close attention, you may lose track of the plot at points, but if you want an animated film like no other, well, you can’t go wrong with this film. 





12 A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

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While I still prefer the original film, Farmageddon is still an enjoyable and charming romp from Aardman and their flock of sheep. With its more sci-fi elements, it leads to some creative jokes, a better villain, and it puts Shaun in the seat of character growth. I wish the other sheep and the farmer had better story beats, but you still get an overall charming and heartwarming story about family and responsibility. Also, the alien is incredibly adorable, and it’s yet another film that shows that you don’t need dialogue to make a film amusing. You simply need to build your story, visuals, and character movements around it. 




11 The Nose 

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Now, this is the most obscure film I have talked about, and it makes me wish we could get an official US release of it. While it takes a bit for the ball to get rolling and to get the context of the plays this film is based on, this has some of the most unique visuals seen in animated films from this year. It was a rather captivating watch that was easily the best film I was able to fully see at Annecy 2020 Online, and I hope some distributor can pick it up for a US release. 

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 2

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Hey everyone, welcome back to part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020. If you have yet to read part 1, then you had better do so because if I don’t mention a film on this list, then it might be on a later part of the previous or future list. Let’s continue then, shall we? I mean, that’s what’s going to happen. 

27 Kill it and Leave this Town 

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I always respect the fact that we still get animated features that stay true to the original ambition and idea created by the director. I think that’s always a good goal to have in mind with making animated features. However, if that director wants to make a film that’s extremely slow, hard to follow at points because of the heavy emphasis on dream logic, and only appealing to a certain niche group of animation and film fans, then you shouldn’t be shocked if someone ends up not liking it and not recommending it. I do get what this film is about, but the meandering pace and focus on surreal dream-like images, designs, and a very morose tone make for a fairly dull watch. I love the art style and the music, but it shouldn’t be a shock when a film like this doesn’t find a wider audience. I know this was the director’s passion project, and that’s fine! I get why some critics do love this film, but again, if you want to make a film that’s as far away as possible from the films that come out from big studios, then don’t be shocked if you don’t catch many fans. 


26 Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge 

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We have yet another video game movie, and while it’s low on the list, it’s one of the better films in terms of video game adaptations. When it’s actually about Scorpion’s Revenge, it’s a compelling story, and the action throughout the overall film is fantastic for a direct-to-video film. However, the film wants to be a universe starter and a traditional Mortal Kombat plot with a tournament set up. It’s too busy trying to focus on making a franchise and giving Johnny Cage a predictable story arc. It’s a fun film, but easily one I can see not coming back to. 

25 SCOOB

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What is with WB and their fetish for wanting universe starters? Even taking out the above-average CGI animation, some decent casting, and a few clever jokes, references, and side characters, the film is not a Scooby-Doo film. It’s a Hanna-Barbera universe starter, and that’s it. It’s uninterested in being a film about the iconic dog and that’s a shame. When it does have some of that charm from the franchise, it’s a decent watch. Like everyone else, I wish some of the concept art that we got to see after the film was released was what we got instead of this lukewarm universe starter. 

24 Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

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Speaking of universes, we now have the finale to the previous cinematic universe of DC/WB direct-to-video films. Outside of an opening sequence that made me unintentionally laugh for days, I was glad this was the last film in a franchise I wasn’t a huge fan of. It had great action, some endearing moments between certain characters, and I think the ending was pretty good! I just wasn’t a fan of this storyline and I’m glad they are moving on. 

23 Summer Days with Coo

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This was one of the few foreign films in 2020 to be a carryover from a long time ago. I mean, a long time ago in terms of 2007. We finally got this film in the US, and while I do like seeing one of Keiichi Haara’s first directorial efforts, it is flawed. It has a weird time balancing more child-like whimsy and the darker tones of what it wants to tackle. While it has some very hit and miss animation overall, it does end on a rather nice note that I wish carried the overall tone of the film. It’s a cute film, but I can safely say his later films are miles above this one. 

22 A Whisker Away

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If there was a real disappointment from 2020, it would be this film. While it has gorgeous animation, some truly great visuals, and the villain is fun, the main character is what breaks this film. Her constant stalking and harassment of the male lead are uncomfortable. It bogs down a film with some very mature themes and ideas. It’s just a reminder that not every original film that comes out is going to be good. 

21 A Dog’s Courage

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This is another film that we finally got from a previous year in the US. While I’m not fully familiar with South Korea and its animation scene, I was aware of this director’s previous film and was excited about finally checking this one out. It uses CGI animation quite wonderfully. It is also an effective experience of a group of dogs trying to find a better life. Its use of 2D animation isn’t as good as other films, and it is yet another animated film with a tone problem. Still, I always admire a film that has a strong emotional story, and I’m glad I got to see it. Just don’t expect this film to be very kid-friendly. 

20 My Favorite War

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This is such a unique movie. While we have films in this similar fashion with Another Day of LifeMy Favorite War tells a more intimate story of the director growing up in Soviet Latvia, and it has a very distinct visual style when the animation beats happen. It might not be the best animation, and it does look a little wonky at points, the personal story and the history behind that country are way more than enough to carry the rest of the film. 

19 Twilight

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Yeah, we finally got this film. I remember there was a lot of hype for it due to being crowdfunded, which is not uncommon with Japanese animation, but then everything went silent, and it stayed in Japan for a few years. Crunchyroll then finally brought it over, and well, it’s a solid little teen drama. While it’s not revolutionary or better than other teen dramas or coming-of-age dramas, it’s still well animated and earnest in its execution to warrant at least one viewing of the film. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 218: The Mitchells vs. The Machines Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While I do enjoy the animated offerings from a company like Disney, I feel like the biggest hurdle every animation studio is going to run into is not another studio, but themselves. I know that sounds snobbish, but let me explain. Disney will probably make some great movies this decade. They might even warrant the award wins that they garner. However, you know that unless the very higher-up individuals in charge allow it, you know they won’t go outside of their boundaries. They might in some visual way, but story and writing? Well, you know they won’t go the distance that we hope they can. That’s what I mean by all of this. I want every animation studio to be the best version that they can be, but I know the much bigger ones like Disney won’t be able to grow or do what we want them to do. It’s why when they do something like have more LGBT+ elements or characters, they are relegated to the TV and shorts area. That is why a studio like Sony Pictures Animation is probably one of my favorite studios as of late. They tend to be more mindful and caring about pushing the envelope a little. They go the distance. Heck, they have made the next step in CGI animation happen with Into the Spider-Verse. Even before then, they were able to push the envelope with the Hotel Transylvania franchise with the use of bounce, squash, and stretch used for the animation of those films. They were willing to go downright silly with The Angry Birds Movie 2 and sure, you can say what does and doesn’t work about them, but the fact they went the distance is why I admire them. That, of course, goes into today’s review of their newest animated feature with The Mitchells vs. The Machines.

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Directed by Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe, this new CGI/2D feature was originally supposed to come out back in 2020, but then the pandemic happened and was taken off the release schedule for a good bit with no place to call home. They then surprised the world by saying that the film was heading to Netflix with a small theatrical release. It comes out April 30th on Netflix, but I was able to watch the film early due to a screener, and, well, everyone is in for a real deal treat as this is, for the time being but I wouldn’t be shocked if it stayed that way, the best animated film of 2021. Why? Well, let’s dive in. 

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The story revolves around Katie Mitchell, voiced by Abbi Jacobson. She is the daughter of the Mitchells’ family which includes her father Rick, voiced by Danny McBride, her mother Linda, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and her little brother Aaron, voiced by Mike Rianda. Katie has always been the odd one out. She loves making movies and ends up getting accepted into a film school. Of course, her dad doesn’t seem to care much for her filmmaking and technology in general and is worried about her going off to school without a backup plan. They get into a fight and it’s up to Rick to solve this situation between him and his daughter. This leads to him canceling her plane ticket to college and instead takes the whole family on a road trip to the college. While this is happening, the head founder of PAL Labs, the Apple of this film’s world, is about to reveal a new product. This founder in question is named Dr. Mark Bowman, voiced by Eric Andre. It is during a product reveal that a new robot version of the smartphone virtual assistant that will replace the old virtual assistant named PAL, voiced by Olivia Colman is introduced. Unbeknownst to the Mitchells and the rest of the world, the AI and robots rebel against the humans to capture them and launch them into space. It is up to Katie and her family to save the world. 

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So, what do I adore about this film? Well, first off, I love how they portray the core family of the film. Do you know how if you wanted a more relatable or realistic family in animation you would have to go to a Brad Bird or maybe a Hayao Miyazaki or even Mamoru Hosoda? Well, we now have a new individual to turn to for these types of stories with Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe making one of the more believable families in animation. You have either seen this family, know this family, or were this family. I’m so impressed with how layered the writing is for these characters. From the bigger interactions to the smaller moments, the Mitchells were fun and zany, but I never felt like they were played up for comedy’s sake. But don’t take that to mean that the film isn’t funny. It’s one of the funniest films I have seen in a good long while. The number of great gags is constantly coming through, and whether they are visual, in the dialogue, or in the foreground or background, I found myself having to hold my sides at points due to how many of the gags the marketing didn’t show, and while some of the best jokes were shown in the trailer, the ones that made me laugh the loudest were not. Even with the creative fun of the premise and the character dynamics, the movie tells a very touching story of connection, the pros, and cons of technology, and as usual, what you are willing to do for your family. This film might be a laugh riot, but it’s a consistently touching story with characters you root for and want to see succeed. The writing is also very astute and sharp with its commentary about big tech corporations and the risk of technology disconnecting one from their family. Luckily, it’s not a black and white “technology is evil” story. It finds a perfect balance of its commentary about technology. They even do something that seems so hard for some animated films to do and that’s to make sure everyone in the family contributes to the story. I thought if you wanted to see an entire family take center stage, you had to go to Mamoru Hosoda for that kind of action, and I’m so impressed with how they made this work! 

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Animation-wise, it is simply put, a masterpiece. This is what I want to see with CGI animation. You always hear how people complain about how all CGI animated features look the same, but they don’t. I get why they say that, but it’s not the case. A Disney film doesn’t look like a Blue Sky film, and a Pixar film doesn’t look like a DreamWorks film. However, some studios seem to have gotten comfortable with how their films look, and that has caused some stagnation with a certain set of the animation community. Well, leave it to the studio behind Into the Spider-Verse to kick it up a notch. This film uses the same kind of mix of CGI with 2D elements and pushes it further with every character, from their skin to their clothes looking painted-on and hand-crafted. It’s impressive as all get out to watch this film in motion and see all of the little details and pops of 2D. This is the next step in the use of CGI animation, and it shows that CGI hasn’t even hit the ceiling yet of the possibilities and opportunities that you can use with the medium. The characters all look fantastic, from the sleek robots to the fluid 2D movements of PAL, to the more regular and cartoony look of the Mitchells and the other humans. Seriously, I love that we have a family in an animated film that’s not traditionally attractive. Do you know how we had that failed Vacation reboot from a few years ago? You know how it just looked like a generic Hollywood idea of a family. What we needed for that film, and outside of that film not existing in general, was something like the Mitchells. Again, it’s so hard not to gush about their designs or the fact that Katie is one of the first queer lead characters in a US-made feature film. The voice cast is pitch-perfect and I know there is this tendency to hate every film that hires celebrities, but the only problem I have is when the celebrities don’t put in the elbow grease to act outside of just being themselves. Instead, we have a case where the celebrities they got were able to become their characters. Danny Mcbride, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Colman, Eric Andre, Abbi Jacobson, and Mike Rianda all do a fantastic job with their roles. I also got a laugh out of the cameos from celebrities like John Legend, Chrissi Tegan, Charlyne Yi, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, Conan O’Brian, and so on. It’s an animated film that’s able to elevate the celebrities, and the celebrities can engross themselves. Never once was I distracted by the casting. The music is a blast from Mark Mothersbaugh who also did the music for The Willoughbys and The Croods: A New Age. Even the pop song that plays during the big “heck yeah!” moment with Rihanna’s Live Your Life is an emotional powerhouse moment. Sadly, I wish the song didn’t have T.I. due to his allegations, but luckily his parts of the song weren’t played in the film. Otherwise, I consider this more bad luck than anything else that the song just happens to have him. 

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines is another example of a studio pushing the limits of animation, and every animation studio should do what the teams at Sony are doing. Push the envelope while still doing what makes you distinct as a studio. Once this film is released, and if you can see it in a theater, watch it! It’s easily my favorite animated film of the year and this year is already stacked since we still have a DreamWorks film, a Pixar film, another Disney film, a film by the legend Masaaki Yuasa, and Mamoru Hosoda. Who knew 2021 would turn out to be one of the best years for animation, and who knows what else the US audiences are going to get this year. Now then, I have one more screener (as far as I know) to cover so stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!




Rating Essentials

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2020 Part 1

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

So, 2020 was a stressful and soul-sucking year, wasn’t it? On top of, well, everything else that matters more than what I’m about to write about, the animation scene was a mess in the feature film department. Delays upon delays, and changing release strategies shook everything up. Luckily, animation was a bright spot despite other elements getting in the way, and not only did we get a lot of great movies, but also a lot of incredible shows. Sure, the major studios bowed out of the release windows, but that left room for multiple smaller indie films and streaming features to enter the scene, and overall, it turned out to be a solid year. Maybe not the strongest, but still entertaining enough. Plus, unlike some animation critics, I watched all of the major releases that mattered. Anyway, the rules still apply. They must have had some kind of US release, I tend to stick to if they were released in some way during 2020, and while I am still following the Oscar Submission List, I am moving some of the films to my 2021 list due to the fact they didn’t get proper 2020 releases. Let’s get started. 

38 Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Water Rebus

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Honestly, I didn’t want to add this to the list because it almost doesn’t count as animation. It mostly feels like a bunch of live-action footage with multiple filters with the bare minimum of rotoscoping the footage. It doesn’t feel like an animated film, but even if it was more traditionally animated, the plot was hard to follow, and trying to find out what the plot exactly was made my blood boil. Maybe it was a subtitle thing when I saw this at Annecy, but it’s no real shock this film had no chance at the Oscars or most award shows. It’s the exact kind of film that I would categorize as unpleasant to watch and is what I think of when people say they want something as far away from the big studio projects as possible. Well, this is what ya get, a film with such little interest in making sure you know what’s going on that it resulted in an experience I never want to have again. Sadly I do get that kind of experience, but we will get there on this list. 

37 Pets United

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I know it’s a cliche to bash Illumination, but you would realize how much talent and work goes into their films if you see a film like Pets United. It’s a weird mishmash of tones, ideas, and it doesn’t work at all. Say what you will about the Secret Life of Pets films, but they were at least fun to watch and kept your interest in some way to make you not forget them. Moments after I watched Pets United, I was forgetting details about the story, the themes, the characters, and so on. Its animation is fine, and some weird aspects stand out for how out-of-place they are, but that’s not enough to call it anything good. It’s one of the films that Netflix picked up because it didn’t cost much to purchase and translate. 




36 Fe@rless 

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Shockingly, a Vanguard Animation film wasn’t on the bottom of the list. Honestly, it does deserve it, because while it’s “better” than the previous two films, I wouldn’t call it good. It’s got all of the hallmarks of the studio’s work with a bad story, bland characters, and some decent ideas that are never expanded on or fleshed out. It all feels like a film that only had enough money in the budget for a rough draft and then got dumped onto Netflix with no fanfare. A few amusing lines do not make a good film. Otherwise, it’s just more straight-to-video/straight-to-streaming schlock. 



35 Pokemon Mewtwo Strikes Back: Evolution

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Who knew we would get our very own version of 2019’s Lion King, but instead of a bad remake of a good movie, we got a bad remake of a mediocre movie! Yeah, I am not a fan of the original film, and I know many love it due to how every kid saw it back in the day. Still, it’s an ugly CGI remake of a 2D animated film that does the bare minimum of improving the story, and while it might be closer to the original Japanese version of the film, that doesn’t change much due to how it’s already a mediocre story. The CGI Pokemon looked fine, and the voice cast was solid, but there was no real reason for this film to be made. 



34 Latte and the Magic Waterstone

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Oh, look, another foreign feature Netflix bought on the cheap and gave no other support for it. Honestly, out of the worst films on the list, it’s harmless. Its most offensive element is that it’s boring and forgettable. It has a few cool moments like this one sequence where a character’s shadow is hand-animated, and some of the moments with certain characters were amusing enough. The biggest offender of this film is that it feels like a feature that was dated in terms of storytelling, themes, and characters. 




33 Henchmen 

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It’s a real bummer the lead actor for this film is a garbage bin. I probably shouldn’t have it on there because of the recent news about Thomas Middleditch (on top of the other creepy and awful stories about him), but honestly, no one in this film is good. It’s a situation where the film’s production history is more interesting than the film itself. I mean, an animated superhero comedy written and produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell sounds incredible, right? Well, that is not what we got due to them leaving the project early on. Instead, we got a middling superhero parody that has a decent hook, but like most bad parodies, does nothing interesting with the hook. The animation is kind of cool, but it’s nothing incredible or as iconic as what Spider-Verse did with its visual style. It’s a film with a promising elevator pitch, but that’s about it. 



32 Ni No Kuni 

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What do you get when you are a film based on a video game? The answer is a film that’s not even remotely familiar to the video games it’s based on. It’s related by name only. While it has a few decent story beats, it plays out like a very generic fantasy film. The only part that is kind of cool is the moments in time where the leads go back and forward between the real world and the fantasy world, but that’s about it. It’s a real disappointing film. 




31 Superman Red Son 

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Do you know what my least favorite kind of DC animated film is? It’s the one based on an adaptation that shouldn’t have been one film! While the story of what if Superman was raised in Russia is a compelling one, it’s not given enough time to let the proper story beats play out, and it doesn’t feel as compelling as you would think this premise is. It’s easily one of the most forgettable films from DC’s animation lineup, and that’s a shame. 



30 Dragon Quest: Your Story 

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The video game curse strikes again! This is why truncating an entire video games’ story into one movie is a bad idea, and it’s even worse when it’s based on what might be the most popular entry in the biggest RPG franchise in Japan. The CGI animation while better than most, does a few things that irked me. Why do you have Akira Toriyama’s iconic designs, but take out distinct design details that end up making everything look generic? The action and music are quite fantastic, but then the film pulls a plot twist in the last 10 minutes that causes the entire experience to drive off of a cliff. I get what they were trying to do, but maybe don’t try to make your own story when you are based on a story that already existed. 




29 The Last Fiction 

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I might not like this film, but boy howdy do I respect and admire how this Iranian animated feature wanted to be this epic that had dark tones, violence, and plenty of action beats. That doesn’t mean I can’t find some things to criticize. The scale of the story is ambitious, but it feels badly paced with huge leaps through time, and characters I found forgettable. The combination of 2D animation and CGI was also something that felt like it was from the early 2000s. Still, there is something to admire about the ambition of this film. Hopefully, we can see some other promising projects from this corner of the world. 



28 Manou the Swift 

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Way back in 2017, I reviewed a film called A Stork’s Journey. I considered it one of the weaker films of that year, and I still stand by that. Well, to me, Manou the Swift was what that film wanted to be. While it’s not a marginally better film, it at least has a lot more that I like about it. It has a decent cast including Josh Keaton, Nolan North, Willem Dafoe, and Kate Winslet, the animation was better, and it wasn’t as obnoxious in the comedy department. It still had a lot of the same problems as A Stork’s Journey, but it did just enough better with the story beats to not make this a total borefest. 

Still, the next batch of films on this list are at the very least more interesting, so stay tuned! 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 216: Secret Magic Control Agency Review


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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A studio I haven’t talked about outside of one review is Wizart Animation. This famed Moscow animation studio has made a name for themselves for high-quality animated features from their country. Well, high-quality animation from the country of origin. A lot of countries seem to be stepping up their animation game by putting more time and effort into higher quality CGI fare. If this studio sounds familiar to any animation fans, it’s because they are behind the Ice Queen and Wolves & Sheep films. I only reviewed the first Ice Queen film, and to be honest, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the studio. Not that I don’t see the effort and talent put into their films, and to give them kudos, I respect the outside film-making elements that they do, like founding an animation school to help revive what was a fruitful animation scene. I might not like many of their films, but I’m glad they are around. So, how have some of their newest projects turned out for them? Well, let’s find out with their newest film Hansel & Gretel aka Secret Magic Control Agency

Directed by Alexy Tsitsilin, this CGI feature is the newest film to start a possible new franchise of films. This film specifically was released in Russia on March 18th, 2021, and got a recent release on Netflix. So, how does this fantastical take on the Brothers Grimm story unfold? Well, you better read the review, or else you will never find out. 

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So, our story revolves around Agent Gretel, voiced by Sylvana Opeis. She is one of the top agents at the Secret Magic Control Agency, an organization that keeps track of all of the magicians and magic users in the world. She is brought in to help find a captured king, voiced by Marc Thompson. The king was captured by a sorceress who uses a lot of food magic named Ilvira, voiced by Erica Schroeder. However, Gretel is tasked with teaming up with her notorious brother Hansel, voiced by Nicholas Corda, an illusionist/con-artist. Things go topsy-turvy when on the mission, Hansel and Gretel end up getting turned into kids with Hansel being voiced by Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld, and Gretel being voiced by Courtney Shaw. Can our child-like duo find a way to work together and save the day before Ilvira uses her delicious ways to take over the kingdom? 

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When you see this film’s trailer, you assume it’s going to be like a Shrek-style film where it’s a parody/comedy on fantasy and fairy tales. Well, it’s not that kind of movie. I know everyone wants to lump in every fantasy comedy with references to fairy tales as a Shrek-rip off, but you have to look into what makes a Shrek-style clone. Anyway, this is more of a fantasy action film with some mild fun with references to other fairy tale stories like Aladdin‘s lamp and Pandora’s Box. So, what is this film’s main theme? From what I gathered, the real theme is about family with a heavy emphasis on the theme of trust. While these are admirable and good themes and morals to have, the rest of the film still needs to be interesting and or at the very least, executed in a way where this premise and setting feels unique. It sounds like a cool idea to have a M.I.B or Kingsman-style organization keeping magic in order, but they don’t do a whole lot with it, nor does it have anything that stands out about it. The film doesn’t do much with its magic setting outside of the food witch, but even then, I always felt like they could have pushed the envelope a little more. The characters are also very typical, and why is it in these types of stories, the sister of the two siblings is always considered the uptight workaholic? Why not the guy? Their arc is a little more interesting when they are kids, but why not start them as kids or just keep them as adults? It would just be more interesting with them as kid agents or fully adult. Not every animated film needs to just have kid protagonists. If you do make them the leads, then make them interesting. I tend to like Hansel a little more than Gretel, but they are still pretty bland. The side characters are also fairly forgettable, and I only find some of them interesting because of who their voice actors are. Seriously, I loved spotting Mike Pollock as the Prime Minister. While I’m not fond of the villain being yet another evil sorceress/witch or whatever, at least I found her creativity and design more interesting with the food magic. I admire the ambition of how grand and creative the story wanted to be, but the problem with making a film for everyone is that if you don’t have the proper execution, then you are going to be a film for no one. It’s 2021, we have almost 30 years of CGI animation and it’s been 20 years since the first Shrek film happened. You need to do a little more than just the bare minimum. I want to see Wizart be the best kind of studio they can be, but when other studios are stepping up their animation game with not only great visuals but also great stories, well, ya need to play ball on the same level. Not to say this film didn’t have any touching moments or moments of endearment, but it’s a mostly forgettable experience. 

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Animation-wise, it looks solid! It’s still not up to par with most animated features from this or the previous decade, but you can tell from their first film to their most recent that Wizart is getting better at their craft. I do think something is up with how characters in this world run because it reminds me of how humans in Shrek would run or how they make characters move in Vanguard Animation films. It’s not quite there, but I think they are getting better. It just needs a little more polish or a little more thought put into how you want the characters to move. The voice cast is solid. I found the lip-syncing to be better than previous efforts, and some of them put in some pretty good performances. They help elevate what is otherwise a fairly forgettable script. Doesn’t hurt to have some pretty talented voice actors. What about the music? Well, the soundtrack composed by Gabriel Hays and Brad Breeck is once again not bad, but I don’t remember any of the tunes or the more distracting pop and rock songs. It all meshed together. 

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Secret Magic Control Agency is one of the better films I have seen from Wizart Animation, but it still doesn’t get better than just, okay. It’s on Netflix so you won’t have a hard time debating if you want to pay the rental fee or not to watch it, but even then, there are better features that just happen to be animated coming out in April for Netflix that makes this one less of a priority. Still, you can find much worse on Netflix than this film. Oh well. Next time, we will be back with another screener, but that won’t be for a week or so. Sorry for all of the blind previews. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it! 


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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A studio I haven’t talked about outside of one review is Wizart Animation. This famed Moscow animation studio has made a name for themselves for high-quality animated features from their country. Well, high-quality animation from the country of origin. A lot of countries seem to be stepping up their animation game by putting more time and effort into higher quality CGI fare. If this studio sounds familiar to any animation fans, it’s because they are behind the Ice Queen and Wolves & Sheep films. I only reviewed the first Ice Queen film, and to be honest, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of the studio. Not that I don’t see the effort and talent put into their films, and to give them kudos, I respect the outside film-making elements that they do, like founding an animation school to help revive what was a fruitful animation scene. I might not like many of their films, but I’m glad they are around. So, how have some of their newest projects turned out for them? Well, let’s find out with their newest film Hansel & Gretel aka Secret Magic Control Agency

Directed by Alexy Tsitsilin, this CGI feature is the newest film to start a possible new franchise of films. This film specifically was released in Russia on March 18th, 2021, and got a recent release on Netflix. So, how does this fantastical take on the Brothers Grimm story unfold? Well, you better read the review, or else you will never find out. 

imageedit_3_2706745357.jpg

So, our story revolves around Agent Gretel, voiced by Sylvana Opeis. She is one of the top agents at the Secret Magic Control Agency, an organization that keeps track of all of the magicians and magic users in the world. She is brought in to help find a captured king, voiced by Marc Thompson. The king was captured by a sorceress who uses a lot of food magic named Ilvira, voiced by Erica Schroeder. However, Gretel is tasked with teaming up with her notorious brother Hansel, voiced by Nicholas Corda, an illusionist/con-artist. Things go topsy-turvy when on the mission, Hansel and Gretel end up getting turned into kids with Hansel being voiced by Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld, and Gretel being voiced by Courtney Shaw. Can our child-like duo find a way to work together and save the day before Ilvira uses her delicious ways to take over the kingdom? 

imageedit_5_2970690064.jpg

When you see this film’s trailer, you assume it’s going to be like a Shrek-style film where it’s a parody/comedy on fantasy and fairy tales. Well, it’s not that kind of movie. I know everyone wants to lump in every fantasy comedy with references to fairy tales as a Shrek-rip off, but you have to look into what makes a Shrek-style clone. Anyway, this is more of a fantasy action film with some mild fun with references to other fairy tale stories like Aladdin‘s lamp and Pandora’s Box. So, what is this film’s main theme? From what I gathered, the real theme is about family with a heavy emphasis on the theme of trust. While these are admirable and good themes and morals to have, the rest of the film still needs to be interesting and or at the very least, executed in a way where this premise and setting feels unique. It sounds like a cool idea to have a M.I.B or Kingsman-style organization keeping magic in order, but they don’t do a whole lot with it, nor does it have anything that stands out about it. The film doesn’t do much with its magic setting outside of the food witch, but even then, I always felt like they could have pushed the envelope a little more. The characters are also very typical, and why is it in these types of stories, the sister of the two siblings is always considered the uptight workaholic? Why not the guy? Their arc is a little more interesting when they are kids, but why not start them as kids or just keep them as adults? It would just be more interesting with them as kid agents or fully adult. Not every animated film needs to just have kid protagonists. If you do make them the leads, then make them interesting. I tend to like Hansel a little more than Gretel, but they are still pretty bland. The side characters are also fairly forgettable, and I only find some of them interesting because of who their voice actors are. Seriously, I loved spotting Mike Pollock as the Prime Minister. While I’m not fond of the villain being yet another evil sorceress/witch or whatever, at least I found her creativity and design more interesting with the food magic. I admire the ambition of how grand and creative the story wanted to be, but the problem with making a film for everyone is that if you don’t have the proper execution, then you are going to be a film for no one. It’s 2021, we have almost 30 years of CGI animation and it’s been 20 years since the first Shrek film happened. You need to do a little more than just the bare minimum. I want to see Wizart be the best kind of studio they can be, but when other studios are stepping up their animation game with not only great visuals but also great stories, well, ya need to play ball on the same level. Not to say this film didn’t have any touching moments or moments of endearment, but it’s a mostly forgettable experience. 

imageedit_7_2296100146.jpg

Animation-wise, it looks solid! It’s still not up to par with most animated features from this or the previous decade, but you can tell from their first film to their most recent that Wizart is getting better at their craft. I do think something is up with how characters in this world run because it reminds me of how humans in Shrek would run or how they make characters move in Vanguard Animation films. It’s not quite there, but I think they are getting better. It just needs a little more polish or a little more thought put into how you want the characters to move. The voice cast is solid. I found the lip-syncing to be better than previous efforts, and some of them put in some pretty good performances. They help elevate what is otherwise a fairly forgettable script. Doesn’t hurt to have some pretty talented voice actors. What about the music? Well, the soundtrack composed by Gabriel Hays and Brad Breeck is once again not bad, but I don’t remember any of the tunes or the more distracting pop and rock songs. It all meshed together. 

imageedit_9_5812705109.jpg

Secret Magic Control Agency is one of the better films I have seen from Wizart Animation, but it still doesn’t get better than just, okay. It’s on Netflix so you won’t have a hard time debating if you want to pay the rental fee or not to watch it, but even then, there are better features that just happen to be animated coming out in April for Netflix that makes this one less of a priority. Still, you can find much worse on Netflix than this film. Oh well. Next time, we will be back with another screener, but that won’t be for a week or so. Sorry for all of the blind previews. 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it! 

The Other Side of Animation 213: The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the biggest problems with covering foreign animated features is a real lack of access to these films. You would think after so many of them getting nominated for awards, companies would be going head over heels to bring these films over. I recently wrote about the fact that there needs to be more companies like GKIDS, Shout! Factory, and LAAF out there bringing these films over. Luckily, with Neon picking up Flee and Magnolia picking up Cryptozoo, it means there will be more distributors putting their hats into the ring of foreign animation distribution to the US of A. One good thing about the pandemic is that film festivals, which would originally be offline and in person, are now all going digital. This is a great way for people to be able to see these films without having to resort to other means like importing them to view. I hope this situation continues because there needs to be a way for people to see films like The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily

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Directed by Lorenzo Mattotti, this CGI/2D animated feature is based on the book, The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati. It was shown at Annecy 2018 in the Work-in-Progress section and was fully shown off at Annecy 2019. Unfortunately, the production company behind the film, Prima Linea, shut down and that’s just a real bummer because it probably killed some avenues for it to be brought over, but I hope that it can be brought over to the states by another company. Anyway, let’s see if it should come over because as we have seen, not every foreign animated film is instantly better than the films from the US. 

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The story starts us off with a traveling entertainment duo named Almerina, voiced by Leila Bekhti, and Gedeone, voiced by Thomas Bidegain. After taking shelter in a cave to avoid a snowstorm, they encounter a very large elderly bear and decide to perform a story for said bear. The story they tell is the famous tale of “The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily”. This is when we move into the story of the king of bears Leonzio, voiced by Thierry Hancisse, and his son, Tonio, voiced by Arthur Dupont. While playing in a lake one day catching fish, Tonio is swept away by the water and captured by hunters. Saddened by the potential loss of his son, Leonzio sits on top of a cliff overlooking the valley. When winter arrives, the king still sits on the cliff. Sadly for his clan of bears, they grow hungry and worry about their survival. The eldest bear among the ranks convinces Leonzio that his son could be among the humans. Once convinced, Leonzio takes his clan of bears and marches down the mountains to the city of Sicily to find his son and deal with whatever gets in his way. 

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I know a lot of my reviews recently have started with talking about the animation side of things, but I have to talk about the animation in this film. It’s a mix of 2D and CGI animation, and it’s some of the most striking visuals I have ever seen. The bountiful color pallet, the grand landscape shots, the surreal designs, the fantastical music that accompanies these visuals make for one of the most visually challenging films in the animation scene. Do you know the term “every frame is a painting”? Well, that describes every single frame of this film. If the Contrechampe section of Annecy is to challenge the perspective of how animation can look, then this film would sweep that category. It’s also one of the more seamless combinations of 2D and CGI that I have seen in European animation. It’s a visual treat if you can’t tell by my gushing about it. It all feels like a storybook brought to life. 

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However, a film with strong visuals also needs a strong story, and to be fair, this film uses fantasy and dream logic in its story of a civilization of bears invading a human kingdom to find the bear king’s son. Luckily, the story itself has some rather mature themes including death, forgiveness, the nature of humans, the bond between a father and son, anti-war sentiments, and it even has some elements of Animal Farm where the bears take hold of the vices of man. It’s a film that’s juggling plenty of plates, but I think the story was told well enough to not feel too busy or too jarring the transition from story 1 to story 2. It’s a different kind of story from the first to the second half. I didn’t mind it that much, but I can understand if people found it jarring. The performances were also stellar with each of the characters feeling distinct and not just because of the visuals that gave you pretty much all the details of who they were. 

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The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily is easily one of my favorite animated films of the year so far. With its striking visuals, fairytale-style storytelling that can mix complex themes about the flaws of humanity and corruption alongside a strong father/son dynamic makes it easily one of the most stellar animated experiences I have seen in a long time. It’s also an animated film that hits the target of being a film anyone can enjoy. It’s whimsical for kids, but it has enough of a mature edge to the overall story and themes that older kids and adults can enjoy. Well, next time, I will be talking about the second film I saw at the New York Children’s International Film Festival with the Chinese animated feat known as The Legend of Hei

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Essential